What do customers really want? LO5986

Barry Mallis (bmallis@smtp.markem.com)
5 Mar 1996 08:35:06 -0500

Reply to: RE>What do customers really want? LO5971

John Paul Fullerton asks for proven ways of gaining insights into customer
needs (latent needs, I'll assume). Below follows a useful, proven method
created through the Center for Quality of Management in Cambridge, Mass.
This model is based on work by Shoji Shiba in conjunction with companies
located in the Boston area. I am quoting CQM's new "CQM Quality
Improvement ToolKit", pages 8, 9 and 10.

The Center for Quality of Management has worked continuously (and
continues to work) on Concept Engineering. CE is a customer-centered
process for clarifying the "fuzzy front end" of the product development
process that comes before detailed design and implementation. It is a
conceptual model, with supporting methodology for developing product
concepts. The process alternates between the level of thought and the
level of experience in a way that allows participants to understand what
is important to customers, why it is important, and how it will be
measured and addressed. It is a customer-centered process of data
collection and reflection designed to develop product concepts that will
meet and exceed customer expectations. Here are the five stages: Stage I:
Understanding the Customer's Environment: an exploration plan is developed
based upon the project scope, which identifies the customers to be visited
and the information, broadly defined, which is being sought. The customer
visits are conducted with an emphasis on collecting notes on verbatim
customer statements and field observations. Then the development team
formulates a mental model of the customer's environment to create a
contextual anchor for downstream development. Stage II: Converting
Understanding into Customer Requirements: the customer-visit notes are
analyzed to uncover the customer requirements (both explicit and latent),
and the requirements are transformed from the language of the customer
into the language of the company; from affective language into concrete
statements. The vital few requirements are selected from the useful many
and arranged in various combinations to create new insight. Stage III:
Operationalizing What You Have Learned: characteristics of the vital few
requirements are investigated with customers. Additionally, metrics are
developed which will be used to measure quantitatively how well the
requirements are met. Finally, all of the information and insight which
has been developed is clearly and concisely displayed in one document.
Stage IV: Generating Concepts: the complex problem design is decomposed
into smaller, independent subproblems. An exhaustive list of solutions
(both feasible and unfeasible) is created for each subproblem. Subproblem
solutions are then combined to create solution concepts. Stage V:
Selecting Concepts: the most promising solution concepts from Stage IV are
compared, in a structured process, against customer requirements. The
concepts which best fit the customer's requirements and the company's
development capabilities are then selected for implementation.

I hope this description provides some insight. We have used it at my
company to launch a very complex, special new product into our market
which we hope will help solidify our critical presence in that market.

Best regards,

Barry Mallis

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>